World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
For much of the 20th century, abuse of older people remained a private matter, well hidden from public view. Today, it is quickly being identified as an important problem, and it is a problem that is likely to increase as many countries experience rapidly aging populations. While the research is only just beginning, the World Health Organization estimates between 4% and 6% of elderly people have experienced some form of abuse within the home alone. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an opportunity to put pressure on governments to prove their commitment to enhancing and protecting the rights of older people.
When people get older, they do not lose their universal human rights. Rights empower individuals to actively participate in social, economic, cultural and political life. Rights empower people to take charge of their own affairs and decide how they wish to live. Rights empower people to give an opinion that is judged of equal merit to anyone else’s opinion. Rights ensure that all people, whether old or young are treated with dignity.
If older people’s rights were better respected and they were supported to live their lives as fully as possible, society as a whole would benefit. There would be less poverty, local economies would improve, and there would be positive knock-on effects in health, not just of older people, but of younger people who live with them too.
A day to take action
On 15 June, older people from over 15 countries will be asking governments to send representatives to the Open Ended Working Group on Aging (OEWG) meeting in August.
Read more about how older people are getting involved in their countries to make a difference.
What is elder abuse?
Like other forms of violence, elder abuse can take the form of:
This abuse can happen in the home or in institutions such as hospitals. Learn more about older people speaking out on their rights abuses
Risk factors for elder abuse
A variety of situations and factors can put an older person at risk for abuse. These vary from strained family relations that can result from stress or frustration as an older person becomes more dependent, or it can resilt from socioeconomic factors. Depicting older people as frail or weak can lead to the isolation on older generations.
While older men are at risk as much as women in general, cultures where women have inferior social status can make women more at risk for abandonment, violence, and loss of legal rights.
A unique opportunity
The UN has decided to discuss whether and how to protect and promote the rights of older people by setting up the Open-Ended Working Group on Aging. It is the only place where the rights of older people are discussed on a global level, by national government representatives who have the power to bring about change.
The working group was established in 2010 and has had two meetings so far. It is due to meet again in August this year. But so far, participation in the meetings has been low and mainly limited to some Latin American and European governments, who together only represent 25% of the global population. This is not enough. We believe all governments in all regions should take part in the discussions to represent all the older people of today and tomorrow. We hope this working group can lead to a convention. A new UN convention would provide governments with a legal framework, guidance, and support to help them protect older people’s rights in our increasingly aging societies.
Learn more about our year-long campaign
You can also join our Age Demands Action campaign. Age Demands Action (ADA) is a grassroots campaign to fight age discrimination and combat the perception that older people are not important.